Having lost the battle, Thackerays come together to fight the war
Having lost the floor test in the House, the Thackerays are taking the battle to the district units and the BMC election, besides opposing the ED, Government on Aarey forest region
As the Shinde government in Maharashtra won its floor test vote by a huge majority, the Shiv Sena moved the Supreme Court against the election of the new Speaker even before the pending case on the disqualification of 16 rebels is heard next week.
The Assembly went in for a head count and strangely there were only 99 MLAs voting for the Maha Vikas Aghadi while 164 voted for the government. It then transpired that at least 13 Congress and NCP legislators, including former chief minister and MVA minister Ashok Chavan, were missing from the House bringing down the number for MVA during the head count.
With one more MLA joining the Shinde ranks, the Shiv Sena found itself somewhat demoralised and in disarray even as a Thackeray loyalist warned of blood on the streets. He was speaking in the Assembly. Taking on Shinde in no uncertain terms in the House, Bhaskar Jadhav, close to Uddhav Thackeray, accused the new chief minister of not just betrayal but blindness in his inability to spot what the BJP was actually doing - setting brother against brother.
“That is what they have done in the past 25 years,” he said in an emotion charged address. “The blood that will spill on the streets, whether that of yours or ours, will belong to a Shiv Sainik. Those who die, yours or ours, will all be Shiv Sainiks.
The BJP wants to finish the Sena and if it succeeds it will be your Shiv Sena as well as ours that will be finished.”
Under the circumstances, it was not surprising that there was heavy security arrangement outside the Assembly and in Sena strongholds with para military forces stationed at expected trouble spots.
Uddhav Thackeray, however, is determined to make it as difficult as possible for the BJP and the new government. Never mind Jadhav's dramatic prophecy of blood on the streets, he has reined in Shiv Sainiks and has now called a meeting of all district chiefs across Maharashtra to set his further course of action.
Although the Shinde group has formed the government, there seems to be little else they have gained – the Shiv Sena Legislature Party office in the Vidhan Bhavan has been sealed, pending the resolution of the dispute about which group constitutes the real Shiv Sena, the cadres seem to be weighing in on the side of Uddhav Thackeray who is continuing to receive the sympathy of civil society, among them many who did not consider themselves Shiv Sena sympathisers.
Uddhav Thackeray also seems to have taken the criticism of his inaccessibility to his party men seriously and now occupies the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar frequently where there seems to be an outpouring of support for him from Shiv Sainiks.
There will now be two battles that the Shiv Sena is gearing up to fight earnestly - the saving of the Aarey Forests and the election to the Brihanmumbai municipal corporation.
Aaditya Thackeray, former environment minister in his father's cabinet, has already declared his intention of protecting the ecosystem in Aarey and received some unexpected support - that of his cousin Amit Thackeray, the son of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray.
Reports suggest that soon after giving in to the BJP's urgings to take on the issue of Azaans in Maharashtra, which resulted in some loss of face as it did not get the expected results – provocation and possible riots by Muslims - Raj Thackeray has come to the realisation that he was used badly by the BJP. Silent throughout the government crisis, some MNS workers suggest he has cottoned on to the attempt to destroy the Thackeray mystic by showing up both Thackerays as ineffective.
His son’s support to Uddhav's son could be the first step towards a reconciliation with his estranged cousin. This is what the Shiv Sainiks have always wanted and if the Thackerays band together, their combined fire power would breathe new life into the Shiv Sena and could make it difficult for the BJP on the ground.
One battle has been lost. But the war remains to be won, say the Shiv Sainiks.
(The writer is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai)
Published: 04 Jul 2022, 6:27 PM